What is Google Images and how does it work?

What is Google Images and how does it work?

Google has come a long way from being just a search engine. Over the years, the company has created an impressive set of tools, and while some of them are highly specialized, there are a few that are worth knowing, regardless of using the web.

Google Images, aka Google Image Search, is just one of these tools, so if you don’t know what it is or aren’t sure how much it can do, here’s what you need to know.

What is Google Images?

Google Images is Google’s web-based product for searching online images. While it performs the same basic query and result retrieval functions as Google’s flagship search engine, it is best understood as a specialized offshoot.

While Google Search produces web pages with textual content by directly scanning textual content, Google Images returns image media based on keywords entered, so its process looks a little different under the hood. The main factor in determining which images populate the results page is how well the search terms match the image file names. This, by itself, isn’t usually enough, so Google Images also relies on text-based contextual information on the same page as an image.

As a final ingredient, the algorithm takes advantage of theprimitive machine learningwhere Google Images learns to associate certain images with each other to create clusters, to provide its reverse image search function.

Once a search is submitted, the service returns a series of thumbnail images related to the keyword description.

A results page for Google Images

At this point, users can access web pages containing a selected image, provided the website hosting the image allows it. If a website allows you to view the page with the image, it might also allow you to go directly to the image and open a page with just the image, essentially presenting the specific URL of the image asset. Websites don’t always allow you to access the exact page with the image (sites that sell professional photographs are an example), but in many cases they do.

How do I access Google Images?

There are three simple ways to access Google Images:

  • Go up Google. com and select Images in the upper right corner.
  • Go up images.google.com which is a more direct way to access Google Images.
  • Enter the search terms for your image search in the default Google search and, on the results page, select Images .

Basic search on Google Images

Just like with Google Search, you can use Google Images by entering text search terms that describe the image. This provides a results page with a grid of thumbnails, arranged in order of accuracy of correspondence from left to right and top to bottom.

On this page, simply follow these steps.

  1. Select a thumbnail to see a larger version online next to a short list of information on its source.

    example Google Images search for a term
  2. From here, select Visit to access the source web page containing the complete image.

    google images related photos

    Alternatively, you can select a thumbnail under “Related Images” to focus it on the online results page, where you will be presented with the same options for that next image, as well as related images.

  3. If selecting Visit yes access the page containing the complete image, it is possible to use the image in some ways; right-click (or, on mobile, long-press) the image.

  4. Select one of the following:

    • Open image in new tab : Loads a page with only that image and whose URL you can use to go directly to that image asset.
    • Save image as – Opens the operating system file download dialog so you can choose where to save the image and how to name it.
    • Copy image address : produces the same URL as direct image, except that instead of opening the URL in a new tab, it invisibly saves it to the OS copy clipboard for you to paste somewhere else.
    • Copy image – Copies the image in multimedia format to the clipboard to allow you to paste the image as an image, for example in a word processing document.
    Black web page with image from google search
  5. You now have a separate image or link to the isolated image.

Google image filter and advanced tools

Below the search bar on the results page is a drop-down box called “Tools”, which offers a number of additional filter options.

Google Images search tools


The first of these drop-down options is Size, which allows you to limit the results to images with certain pixel dimensions. This can be an overall size range or even an exact pixel size and is done through the steps below.

  1. Select Cut .

  2. Select Exactly from the drop-down menu.

    Google Images results page for the search term "mountains" with the Dimensions menu open.
  3. In the pop-up dialog, enter the width and height dimensions in pixels, then select Go .


Another useful filter option is Color which filters the image results based on color. To use it, select Color and select the color or color feature you want to see.

google images


The “Rights of use” option can also be useful if you are looking for images that you can embed in the media of your creation, such as blog posts, videos or anything else. This menu, which offers four usage permission states to choose from, allows you to filter the results for images that are more likely to be legally reused than others.

Google Images results page for the search term "mountain" with the Usage rights drop-down menu open

This process is not foolproof and it is up to you to do further research to ensure that the chosen image is legally available for reuse in the manner indicated by the chosen filter.


Finally, as with classic Google Search, Google Images allows users to filter based on when an image was posted on a website.

  1. Select Now .

  2. Select Custom interval.

    Google Images custom range
  3. Enter the start and end dates in the required fields, with a date string delimited by a slash (xx / xx / xxxx) or select it using the calendar on the right.

  4. Select Go .

What is Google Images Reverse Image Search?

Perhaps the most powerful feature of Google Images is reverse image search, which uses an image as a “search term”. A reverse image search like this can return two different sets of results:

  • Source website – Can return source websites where the image can be found and any names or descriptions associated with the image. This is useful if you have an image but want to know where it came from.
  • Similar images : A reverse search can also bring out visually similar images. For example, you can reverse your search for a mountain image to see other similar mountain backgrounds.

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